I love Seth Godin because he writes so well and makes things so clear and easy to understand. (I lost this book on the plane en-route to Toronto last December and bought another one just because I like it and would like to share it with you.) The second important reason to buy this book was because I was trying to find the answer that commonly appears throughout our lives: I feel like giving up. What should I do, quit or hang tough? Below I quoted what’s written on the cover of this book, The Dip – A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick):
The old saying is wrong—winners do quit, and quitters do win.
Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point—really hard, and not much fun at all.
And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip—a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.
According to Godin, what really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.
Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt—until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. In fact, winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. If you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.
Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. Either they fail to stick out the Dip—they get to the moment of truth and then give up—or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.
Whether you’re a graphic designer, a sales rep, an athlete, or an aspiring CEO, this fun little book will help you figure out if you’re in a Dip that’s worthy of your time, effort, and talents. If you are, The Dip will inspire you to hang tough. If not, it will help you find the courage to quit—so you can be number one at something else.
And, below are things that I think are interesting:
Our culture celebrates superstars. We reward the product or the song or the organization or the employee that is number one. Winners – people or products or organizations on the top of the list – win big because the marketplace loves a winner. People don’t have a lot of time and don’t want to take a lot of risks – with limited time or opportunity to experiment people intentionally narrow their choices to those at the top. Faced with an infinite number of choices, many people pick the market leader. When you’re gravely sick aren’t you looking for the best doctor? When you visit a new town aren’t you looking for the best place to eat in town?
Of course, the Best is subjective. I (the consumer, the client) get to decide, not you. World is selfish. It’s my definition, not yours. It’s the world I define, based on my convenience or my preferences. Be the best in my world and you have me, at a premium, right now. In a free market, we reward the exceptional. People who are the best in the world specialize at getting really good at the questions they don’t know. The people who skip the hard questions are in the majority, but they are not in demand – be exceptional in the ones that matter to the world of your consumer or client.
Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. Reactive quitting and serial quitting are the bane of those that strive (and fail) to get what they want. And most people do just that. They quit when it’s painful and stick when they can’t be bothered to quit.
There are different types of situations that lead you to quit – The Dip, The Cul-de-Sac, and the Cliff.
The Dip – is the long slog between starting and mastery. Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s luck and real accomplishment. It’s easy to be a CEO. What’s hard is getting there. There’s a huge Dip along the way. If it was easy, there’d be too many people vying for the job and the CEO couldn’t get paid as much, could they? The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value. If there wasn’t a Dip, there’d be no scarcity. Scarcity makes being at the top worth something.
Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don’t last quite as long when you whittle at them.
Microsoft has constructed a Dip so deep and so expensive that it’s impossible to cross. (Google is going hard after Microsoft by creating web-based versions of spreadsheets and word processors but has to change the platform, from PC to the Web.) Apple done the same thing with iTunes and the iPod. First, they took the advantage of a new platform to destroy the Tower Records of the world. Then, instead of resting on their lead, Apple built all sorts of systems and benefits that make it extremely difficult for someone to persevere long enough to come out ahead at the other end.
The Cul-de-Sac (French for “dead end”) – is a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get a lot better, it doesn’t get a lot worse. It’s just it. There’s not a lot to say about the Cul-de-Sac except to realize that it exists and to embrace the fact that when you find one, you need to get off it, fast. That’s because a dead end is keeping you from doing something else. The opportunity cost of investing your life in something that’s not going to get better is just too high. What’s the point of sticking it out if you’re not going to get the benefits of being the best in the world? But, why is it so hard to quit the Cul-de-Sac? Same reason as always. Because day to day, it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to, that doesn’t make too many waves, that doesn’t hurt.
The Cliff – is rare but scary, is a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.
That’s it. Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-de-Sac to focus your resources. The Dip and the Cul-de-Sac aren’t linear. The Cul-de-Sac is boring, the Cliff is exciting (for a while), but neither gets you through the Dip and both lead to failure.
When faced with the Dip, many individuals and organizations diversify. Hardworking, motivated people find diversification a natural outlet for their energy and drive. And yet the real success goes to those who obsess.
Think big and think like Superstar. Superstars get what they want because they have unique skills. Superstars command far more than their fair share of income, respect, and opportunity because there are very few other choices for a customer or an employer seeking the extraordinary. A superstar lawyer has all the work she can handle, regardless of her specialty. A superstar musician commands a thousand times the income per performance as an average musician. A superstar is the best in the world at what she does. If you want to be a superstar, then you need to find a field with a steep Dip – a barrier between those who try and those who succeed. You must quit the projects and investments and endeavors that don’t offer you the same opportunity. It’s difficult, but it’s vitally important.
Seven reasons you might fail
to become the Best in the world:
- You run out of time (and quit).
- You run out of money and quit).
- You get scared (and quit).
- You’re not serious about it (and quit).
- You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit).
- You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard).
- You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent).
By “you” I mean your team, your company, or just plain you, the job seeker, the employee, or the entrepreneur. Most of the time, if you fail to become the best in the world, it’s either because you planned wrongly or because you gave up before you reached your goal.
Here are a bunch of systems that are dependent on Dips. These Dips – Eight Dip Curves – are in the places where organizations and individuals are most likely to give up. If you see these Dips coming, you’re more likely to make a choice. Quitting in the Dip, though, isn’t worth the journey.
Quitting at the right time is difficult. Most of us don’t have the guts to quit. Worse, when faced with the Dip, sometimes we don’t quit. Instead, we get mediocre. The most common response to the Dip is to play safe – which is precisely why so few people end up as the best in the world. To be a superstar, you must do something exceptional. Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers!
Microsoft failed twice with Windows, four times with Word, three times with Excel. The entire company is based on the idea of slogging through the Dip, relentlessly changing tactics but never quitting the big idea. Yes, you should (you must) quit a product or a feature or a design, but no, you mustn’t quit a market or a strategy or a niche. P&G has killed hundreds of products. Starbucks killed their music-CD-burning stations. Jake Welch remade GE by selling a billion-dollar division that’s making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share. (He said if we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out – so people in the organization got the message that it’s not okay to be the average or the mediocre in the world.)
When people quit, they are often focused on the short-term benefits. Short-term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do, which is why it’s so important for you to amplify the long-term benefits of not quitting. Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn’t any.
So… it’s okay to quit, sometimes. In fact, it’s okay to quit often. You should quit if you’re on a dead-end path. You should quit if you’re facing a Cliff. You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward at the end. Quitting the projects that don’t go anywhere is essential if you want to stick out the right ones. You don’t have the time or passion or resources to be the best in the world at both.
Last advice: Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress at the moment.
All our success are the same. All our failures, too.
We succeed when we do something remarkable.
We fail when we give up too soon.
We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we do.
We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.
And last but not least, The Big Dip: Ten Questions with Seth Godin, as appears on Guy Kawasaki’s blog.